Businesses rejoice in their ability to promote directly and for free to customers and prospects using social media.

While social media has created no-cost marketing opportunities, it also has created risks, including identity theft and data breach. Are you paying enough attention to the risks and costs? I hope so!

Think about it. Social-media sites ask registered users to provide as much personal and business information as possible. Some of the largest social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn already have experienced data-breach events.

And now online perpetrators are using social media to create more opportunities than ever to steal identities and commit fraud.

Positive opportunities created by social media include the ability to increase business and consumer connections along with increasing your brand through sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Some of the negative risks include the creation of permanent records and reputational damage to your brand in the event of a data-breach event.

Businesses need to identify social media's intellectual property theft and data breach risks and plan and prevent accordingly. In particular, I encourage you to pay close attention to my top five risks to small business related to social media.

•The use of social media to make false or misleading claims.

•The use of social media to commit copyright or trademark infringement (oftentimes unintentional).

•The use of social media to use intellectual property without permission.

•The use of social media to steal trade secrets — or to post trade secrets and confidential information.

•The use of social media to steal employee or customer information, resulting in a data-breach event.

Based on the above, here are my four top risk-management tips that can help protect and minimize your business from social-media risks:

Create a crisis management plan detailing employee and employer protocol in the event of a data breach, injured employee, customer complaints or compliance and social-media issues. This crisis plan should state clearly what is accepted and not accepted in using social media.

Understand that social media creates a permanent record and that your business and/or your employees' use of social media can result in a data leak, be used to discredit your business or to serve as a source for material discovery in a court case or litigation. Be sure to have an information policy, including a records management plan, to be consistent for all communication and correspondence, including social media.

Create a social media policy that provides a detailed explanation and clarification for all employees and vendors on what company information and/or issues can be discussed within and outside the business. This policy should include basic tenants and the negative impact on both the company and employee if this policy is ignored – either accidentally or on purpose.

Employee education and training for your employees with specifics regarding the management and safeguarding of employee and customer information.

Mark's most important: Take advantage of social media for your business, but be prudent when using it and be prepared with a plan in case ID- and cybercriminals decide to take advantage of you.

 

Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., a national ID-theft and background-screening provider based in Phoenix. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This article was originally published on AZcentral.com and republished with the author's permission.

 

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